In this article, we’ll share the step-by-step process of how to get your California real estate license. You’ll be glad, but probably not surprised, that California’s real estate market is one of the largest in the United States.
The state continues to see high demand for housing, particularly in major metros like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.
In the Bay Area alone, San Francisco and San Jose were among the cities where homes sold the fastest in the US. And the California market consistently sees sky-high real estate prices, with over half of active listings more than $1 million in early 2022.
Whether you wish to work as an agent or broker, you’ll need a California real estate license to buy and sell property in the Golden State. You’ll also need to be at least 18 years old, pass the relevant examination, undergo a criminal background check, and complete Californian-specific real estate coursework.
Find out how to get a California real estate license, the costs, the time span, and other helpful information below.
- How To Get Your Real Estate License In California
- California Real Estate Agents vs. Brokers: What’s the Difference?
- Getting Your Real Estate License In California Step-By-Step
- Steps To Get A Real Estate Broker License In California
- How Long Does It Take To Get a California Real Estate License?
- California Real Estate Licensing Cost
- Does California Have Real Estate License Reciprocity?
- California Real Estate Licensing Exemptions
- California Real Estate Post-Licensing Requirements
- Useful Resources To Get Your California Real Estate License:
- Getting Your California Real Estate License – Closing Thoughts
How To Get Your Real Estate License In California
In California, as in many other states, there are two levels of real estate license: a real estate salesperson (agent) license and a real estate broker license. The latter is a step up from the former, requiring more experience and education.
Under California law and as set out by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE), you are required to:
What Are The California Real Estate Licensing Requirements?
You must be 18 years or older.
You need to be a US citizen or lawful resident.
You must complete 135 hours of DRE-approved pre-licensing courses at an accredited university or private real estate school (approved by a California Real Estate Commissioner). We like Colibri Real Estate, AceableAgent’s California pre-licensing, and the CE Shop California school.
Pass the California real estate salesperson exam. If you are looking for some extra exam prep, checkout PrepAgent’s California exam prep courses.
Submit a Salesperson Examination Application or Combined Salesperson Examination and License Application, along with the required fee.
Undergo electronic fingerprinting for a criminal background check.
Must be sponsored by a licensed California real estate broker to activate the license.
What Are The California Real Estate Broker License Requirements?
Must be 18 years or older, similar to sales associates.
Need a valid Social Security Number or equivalent identification for tax purposes.
Must have an active Salesperson license for at least 24 months within the past 5 years.
Complete 360 hours of DRE-approved pre-licensing courses at an accredited university or real estate school (approved by a California Real Estate Commissioner). The CE Shop’s California broker classes are a good option.
Submit a Broker Examination Application or Combined Broker Examination and License Application, along with the required fee.
Undergo electronic fingerprinting for a criminal background check.
Pass the California Real Estate Broker Exam, which covers advanced topics.
Pay the state broker license fee, typically higher than for sales associates.
Activate the license to practice either independently or under another broker.
Follow DRE guidelines for ongoing education and license renewal; non-compliance could lead to license revocation.
California Real Estate Agents vs. Brokers: What’s the Difference?
The primary difference between an agent and a broker is experience and education. To become a broker, agents must complete two years in the industry (within the previous five years) and complete a higher standard of education, covering in-depth aspects of the Californian real estate industry. Here are some of the best real estate brokerages to work for in 2023.
In addition, in California, the different licenses grant different responsibilities.
Real estate agents, for example, are specifically authorized to handle real estate transactions under a licensed broker. In contrast, a broker can own their own company and is free to hire agents to work for them.
Getting Your Real Estate License In California Step-By-Step
Prior to your application, always check to ensure you meet all the eligibility requirements. Becoming a salesperson or broker is an fairly expensive undertaking that can take considerable time.
Having said that, and putting things in perspective, it’s much less expensive than your typical college tuition.
Let’s go through the California real estate license process for both agent, and broker:
If you’re looking to become a California real estate salesperson, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1. Complete The Pre-License Education
You are expected to complete at least three college-level courses in a specific subject matter to be able to apply for a real estate license. You should complete 135 hours of state-approved pre-license education – either online or in a classroom.
The three courses should include Real Estate Principles, Real Estate Practice, and one other course.
Many options are available, including real estate schools and online facilities that will teach you the required material.
Step 2. Submit Your Application
After completing the pre-license requirements, it’s time to submit your application.
The application cannot be submitted online. It must be either faxed or mailed to the California DRE. Expect to receive your results within six weeks before you schedule the exam.
You’ll also need to pay the required fees by check, credit card, or money order.
Step 3. Undergo a Criminal Background Check
As part of the application process, you will have to pass a criminal background check.
You should always disclose any previous criminal history or legal actions taken against you, in particular, crimes related to extortion, fraud, burglary, criminal conspiracy, and tax evasion.
If you do have a criminal history, your application may be considered based on your moral character. Moreover, any administrative actions your state or federal government took, such as selling alcohol to a minor at your bar, could also prohibit your application.
Step 4. Pass the California Real Estate Licensing State Exam
Last, you will need to study for and pass the California real estate license exam. The exam takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, includes 150 multiple-choice questions, and has a pass rate of at least 70%.
Once you’ve passed, you can receive your license and get it issued via the DRE’s website. You’ll also need sponsorship from a licensed California broker.
Read our PrepAgent review, if you are looking for some additional exam prep.
Steps To Get A Real Estate Broker License In California
If you have already obtained your salesperson license and have at least two years of real estate experience, you can move on to becoming a broker. Here are the steps:
Step 1. Complete the California Pre-License Course
As before, you’ll have to complete further education to be eligible for application. These broker courses can be taken at an institution of higher learning or a DRE-approved private real estate school.
The California broker pre-licensing courses involve 360 hours of learning.
They include eight statutorily required college-level courses, including Real Estate Practice, Legal Aspects of Real Estate, Real Estate Finance, Real Estate Appraisal, Real Estate Economics or Accounts, and three additional courses (unless you take Real Estate Economics and Real Estate Account, in which cases, only two elective courses are required).
Step 2. Submit Your Application
Once you’ve completed your educational component, submit your application. Submit the California DRE’s Broker Examination Application or the Combined Broker Examination and License Application.
You’ll also need to undergo another background check via fingerprinting if you haven’t done so within the last two years.
Step 3. Pass the California Broker License Exam
The California real estate license broker exam is considerably harder than the salesperson exam. It includes 200 multiple-choice questions, takes up to 5 hours to complete, and requires a score of 75% or higher to pass.
The exam covers advanced topics in real estate, including Brokerage Management, California Real Estate Laws, and Property Valuation.
Step 4: Submit Your California Real Estate License Application
After completing your California state exam, you will either receive your license automatically or you’ll need to apply via the DRE, depending on the initial form you submitted.
How Long Does It Take To Get a California Real Estate License?
The Californian licensing process is more onerous than other states. Candidates can expect the total application process to take up to six months to become a licensed salesperson.
After a further two years working in the industry and completing eight real estate courses, a salesperson becomes eligible to become a broker. You can expect the broker application to take a similar amount of time.
California Real Estate Licensing Cost
A real estate license application is not a cheap process. A salesperson application could set you back $500 to $700, while a broker application could cost between $700 to $1,000. Here’s a breakdown of the potential costs:
Real Estate Salesperson
Real Estate Broker
Brokerage Desk Fees
We suggest checking for discounted California real estate pre-licensing classes at Colibri Real Estate, AceableAgent, or the CE Shop. All three are very popular real estate school options to get your California real estate license online.
Does California Have Real Estate License Reciprocity?
Unlike other states, California has no reciprocity agreements with other jurisdictions. If you wish to buy and sell real estate in California, you’ll need to complete the same requirements as everyone else.
You do not have to live in the state to obtain a California real estate license; however, you must maintain a business address within the state to conduct business.
California Real Estate Licensing Exemptions
Completion of the pre-licensed education for both a salesperson and broker is not required if the individual already has a four-year degree with a major or minor in real estate.
However, the individual will still need to complete the examination to earn their license and undergo two years in the industry as a salesperson before applying for a broker license.
In addition, if you’re an attorney in good standing with the California State Bar, you can bypass certain prerequisites to become a licensed real estate agent or broker in California. Such individuals can directly qualify for the real estate exams without completing any prior college-level courses.
Nonetheless, passing the relevant real estate exam is still mandatory to acquire an agent or broker license.
For those seeking a broker’s license, it’s worth noting that the two-year real estate experience requirement still applies. That doesn’t necessarily have to be in sales; alternative experience, such as a background in real estate law, may be considered acceptable.
California Real Estate Post-Licensing Requirements
California real estate licenses are issued every four years. You will be notified 60 days prior to your renewal period.
For a salesperson, renewal fees are $245, and for a broker $300. This increased to $367 and $350, respectively, for late renewal (with 2 years after the license expiration date).
Previously, both salespeople and brokers renewing for the first time were required to complete:
Salesperson: Complete four 3-hour courses in key areas and a 3-hour fair housing course. Take a 2-hour implicit bias class and 18 hours in consumer protection. The remaining hours can be consumer service or protection to meet the 45-hour requirement.
You can take the California salesperson post-licensing classes with The CE Shop.
Broker: Complete five 3-hour courses in specified topics and a 3-hour fair housing course with role- play. Add a 2-hour implicit bias class and 18 hours in consumer protection. Fill the remaining hours with consumer service or protection courses to meet the 45-hour requirement.
You can take the California Broker post-licensing classes with The CE Shop.
Useful Resources To Get Your California Real Estate License:
Considering applying for your real estate license? Here are some resources that can help:
- California Department of Real Estate (DRE): The official government website offers comprehensive details on California’s licensing requirements, application processes, and exams for real estate professionals.
- DRE Reference Book – A Real Estate Guide: A complete repository of major California real estate law topics intended for informational purposes and not as legal advice.
California Real Estate School Resources:
- Colbri Real Estate: This accredited institution provides both pre-licensing and post-licensing courses that are approved by the California DRE. To learn more about this California real estate school, read our Colibri Real Estate Reviews.
- The CE Shop: Besides pre-licensing, The CE Shop also offers mandatory post-licensing education for California real estate professionals. Read our The CE Shop Review to learn more.
- AcebleAgent: AceableAgent offers state-specific courses and exam prep materials, highly recommended for anyone preparing for the California real estate exams. As like the other two schools, you can read AceableAgent reviews on our website.
- California Association of Realtors (CAR): This organization provides industry news, legislative updates, and other resources for California real estate professionals.
Getting Your California Real Estate License – Closing Thoughts
That’s how to get your California real estate license. It can seem like a daunting process. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
According to Talent, the average real estate agent in California earned $100,000 annually in 2023; and brokers can expect to earn upwards of $230,000+ annually. Use this guide as your roadmap to your future success.
Feel free to read our reviews of some of the best online real estate schools when you are ready to get started.
Good luck getting your California real estate license, and all the best in your career!
About The Author: This article was researched and published by Tim Schroeder. As a husband and wife real estate team residing in Florida, Tim Schroeder brings deep expertise with over 8 years of experience as a licensed real estate agent.
Deb and Tim Schroeder have earned numerous real estate industry awards and recognitions. They have been recognized by Orlando Magazine as a “Top 100 Real Estate Professional” as well as earned Top Producer Designations with the Orlando Realtor Association for 6 years straight.